How One Country Incentivizes the Locals to Connect with Expats

Enclaves have helped many transplants and immigrants adjust to their new life in America, but they can also be a crutch when different ethnicities end up disconnected from the locals.

Last year, Denmark’s Syddan Universitet changed all that — and American companies may want to try it as well. The university gave transplants a way to reach out to the locals for at least six months as a way of easing their transition to their new country.  It involved monthly food or drinks inside or outside of the university;  transplants’ partners and children included.

There’s an incentive. Each pair — local and transplant — was given a free lunch voucher at the university as well as fun vouchers for city outings. Now if this was replicated in San Francisco, it would tremendously help transplants assimilate and acculturate faster in their new environment.

The goal was not lost on the university, which saw it as an opportunity to understand more how international employees and families can feel more welcome.

Usually, expats gravitate more toward each other, but it need not be the case if they can be made to feel at ease. Unfortunately, in this most volatile of political times when anybody foreign is held under closer scrutiny, it’s not so easy.  

Some say their enclaves can be a source of strength these days. In the Bay Area, transplants have their own towns they call their second home. Most Filipinos live in Daly City. The Russian-speaking communities thrive in Richmond and Sunset districts in Geary Street, while Latinos can be found in the Mission District.

In the more concentrated little towns, Chinatown in the Bay Area is the largest in North America with Japantown close by.   

However, many still do not reach out to the locals because of  innate cultural differences, language barriers, or the lack of shared experiences.

Yes, different generations are now fully integrated and fairly dispersed around the Bay Area, but many still stick to their family and friends of their ethnic kind in on way or another. It’s essential for people to cross over and socialize or they would be losing so much.

But the first step to welcoming transplants has to come from the host country; the key word being host. They know the country better than anyone.

One thing not many know about expats is that they are also eager to connect with someone, even if they know they’re different.

For the host, it’s important to note how the first six months is crucial for them. Beyond that, it’s even better if they can actually develop meaningful friendships and relationships along the way that will sustain them.

After all, they left their country or city for a new job and environment. They might as well be walking on eggshells—as such, the first task of a global mobility manager is to make them feel at home.